Set in a fantasy steampunk world, Violet City tells the story of Flynn, a young man setting out to find out why his mum mysteriously disappeared when he was a child. What he finds is a world run by the aristocratic Houses of Splaine and Ezcargoza where the streets are inhabited by petty criminals and wild savages and the mysterious empusa ensure an atmosphere of tension and fear reigns over the masses.
Violet City is an independent production, filmed in partnership with Liverpool John Moore’s University. It was written by Dave Jackson and directed by John Maxwell. It has taken almost two years to film and has provided me with many make up challenges.
As the entire film is black and white, with a comic book feel to it, colours were irrelevant and subtle make up would have been lost. Moreover, Violet City is a fantasy film and so fashions, historical eras and styles would be different. There are several key ‘groups’ within this film – Aristos, Jackals, Collectors, Empusa, Naals, Ravens and Silver Lizards. Each of these groups had to have a distinctive look that tied in with the overall feel of the film.
In pre-production the director and I decided that there would be an emphasis on the eyes of each character. Flynn has violet eyes, the aristos have elaborate line designs around one eye, Mercuria had painted patterned eyebrows and Nolte has an eye patch. All of the line details around the aristos and Mercuria were done using Kryolan black cake eyeliner. This was excellent in creating a deep black and one pot lasted the entire shoot.
Other key products that I could not have done this film without include Grimas white cream paint (for the aristos and ravens faces), Grimas black and brown eyeshadows (as dirt on a lot of the cast), Nick Dudman’s Pigs Might Fly dark blood (in my opinion, the best fake blood there is) and lastly, a Kryolan tearstick, an essential part of my kit.
Of course, as filming took place over two years, the biggest challenge for all of us was continuity. Constantly taking photographs to document hair and beard length proved invaluable as did viewing previous footage and we could not have continued filming otherwise.
Because we were filming in black and white, colours weren’t necessary and we found that each product had a number of uses. Therefore we actually spent very little on make up, considering the scale and ambition of our production.